Despite the close attention it’s paid on the red carpet, fashion, for a celebrity, is typically fairly disconnected from a star’s real interior world. For the chameleonic actor Jessica Chastain, though, fashion is elemental: a true pleasure that is both a vehicle for self-expression and an opportunity for inward expansion. Fashion is like music, she says one morning this summer. It’s an art that doubles as a tool she can use. “It constantly makes me feel different things,” she says. “It opens up other parts of myself.” It’s this perspective—along with the kind of exquisite bone structure that belongs as much in Old Hollywood as it does new—that made Chastain the natural choice to pose in decades-spanning designs for the Centennial Issue of L’OFFICIEL.
Anniversaries were on her mind, too, when Chastain spoke to the magazine. It was a few days after she’d returned from Cannes, a full 10 years after her debut there with Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. “My career in cinema is a decade old now, which is shocking,” she says, though that’s really only true in the sense that she’s managed to build one so rich and interesting in such a relatively short period of time. If you need an idea of the actor’s range, consider the two projects she has premiering this month: Michael Showalter’s biopic The Eyes of Tammy Faye, in which Chastain transformed into the emotive, scandal-plagued evangelist, and Hagai Levi’s present-day reprise of Ingmar Bergman’s 1973 two-hander Scenes from a Marriage for HBO, in which the roles of the husband and wife have been flipped.
Chastain speaks with L’OFFICIEL about conquering her fears, her deep feeling for fashion, and what keeps her striving forward—both as a champion of equal rights for women in and out of Hollywood and as an artist.
L’OFFICIEL: I watched the first two episodes of Scenes from a Marriage available to reviewers, and The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and congratulations on both really tremendous—and incredibly different—projects and performances. What attracts you to a role?
JESSICA CHASTAIN: Well, it depends. Sometimes what attracts me to a role is who I’m working with. Oftentimes it’s if the role is something I’ve never done before and feels challenging. But always what attracts me to a role is feeling like I’m putting something positive out into the world. It may not be a nice person I’m playing, but positive in terms of breaking gender stereotypes or pushing a conversation forward. I always ask myself, “What am I putting out in the world? Am I contributing to society?”